Story of Solomon and the demon…if the devil is in the details, then where is God? As I have studied the history of the temple and Solomon’s presiding over its construction, I have bumped into numerous legends, myths, fairy tales and stories. That’s not surprising. It was a magnificent feat, it forever changed the landscape of the region, and it significantly marks history. One story that particularly captured my imagination was the story of Solomon encountering a demon that was creating mayhem around the construction site. According to one version the legend, people were even dying in these “construction accidents” so Solomon and his trusted advisor devised a plan to stop this demon. As the tale goes, they got the demon drunk and then shackled him with chains bearing the word Yahweh, or bearing the sacred name of the One True God. Even a demon of great power couldn’t overcome chains that were inscribed so mightily. Then Solomon really turned the tables and forced the adversary to work on the temple, which expedited the construction work greatly because of the supernatural power of the beast. Now, this is NOT a biblical story! And if you do even the closest reading about the building of the temple from the Old Testament, you really don’t get the impression that there were any delays, set-backs, distractions, or the like. And yet, we are working with about 4000 square feet, and the foundation of the temple, including the porches was probably similar in size to this…3300 square feet and about 40 feet or 4 stories high. And there is enough detail for the devil to get involved! As I was praying, musing over this little legend, and thinking about the next phone calls I needed to make regarding our worship facility, the old adage “The devil is in the details” came to mind. Maybe the crafter of the fairy tale had such a thought as he wove the tale. My thoughts in prayer mode sounded a little different. I thought, if the devil is in the details, where in the world is God?
We have to be careful when we put God into a category of lostness however. To ask “Where is God?” is to imply that he has, like my youngest son, wandered off out of sight and I must now go about the task of locating him. But God has not been nor will he even be “lost.” Nor does make himself unsearchable. On the contrary, he invites us to search, to look, to open our eyes because it is possible for us to see God! So if God is not lost, but we are still looking, who do you think is lost? Obviously, we are. I want to suggest a different word than lost however. But let me do so by way of another story. This is not a legend or a fairy tale. This is a true life daily home encounter. It’s a story I’m sure you can tell too. It’s entitled, “Honey, have you seen my..”
Story of Cliff looking for the slotted spoon…we miss what we are looking for. We were frying fish together, and I had already warmed the oil in the fry daddy. I was up to my elbows washing, deboning and cutting the fillets into nuggets. Cliff was rolling them in the fry and placing them in the fryer. He looked over at me and said, “Do you know where the thingy is.” Now first of all, the super power to be able to interpret such vernacular is not a small thing. The thingy in question is the metal slotted spoon we use to pull the fish out of the fryer. But he didn’t ask where might the metal slotted spoon be. He just said, “Do you know where the thingy is?” I replied, “In that drawer,” and motioned my head (since hands were very fishy) toward 1 of 5 drawers in our kitchen. He opened that drawer, moved some utensils around and shut the drawer. Not seeing the thingy, he said, “Where else would it be?” It might be in the island drawer, or possibly by the fridge. But it’s supposed to be in the first drawer. I’m still washing and cutting. “It’s not in the drawers. Where else is it?” Well, I guess it could be in the dishwasher. “Nope, empty. Where do you think it is?” You can check the other drawers, but I suggest you start over with the first drawer. I’m confident that if I wash my hands and walk over and open the drawer, it will be right there. “Start over, huh? You think I didn’t look good enough in the first drawer?” I just shrugged. So he did, start over, look in the first drawer, and he found the thingy…the metal slotted spoon. “How did it get in there?” He asked incredulously, as if magically it appeared in the drawer only after his careful search. Was it lost? No, never. Was Cliff not searching? Actually, he was. He even knew what he was looking for. So why didn’t he see it? Well, if I knew that…I would write a best seller for wives and mothers everywhere. I don’t why Cliff didn’t see the thingy.
But I do know that God is not lost. And God is willing to reveal himself to us. And I am confident that every heart searches and yearns for God. But sometimes, we aren’t focused or we aren’t willing to move some other junk out of the way or sometimes we go through the motions but really, we are just waiting for someone else or something else to work. As God revealed himself in this incredible and very physical way by having a temple built for his holy presence to dwell, I think we see unfolding a story about a God who wants us to find Him and find ourselves in Him in the process. So as I examined the detail, the minutia of this biblical account of when God revealed his glory in this very perfect temple, I looked for how I might find God in the detail, in the minutia of this real life story of God revealing his glory in this very imperfect temple every day. So for the next 3 weeks we are going to ask the question, where do we find God in the details of building temples?
3 weeks: finding God in the details
We find God where we give glory to God. Are we working for God or for man?
We find God where we make space for God. Holy space in calendar, budget, house…Mt Moriah
We find God where we worship God (anywhere) Isaiah 56:7
Part of the construction plan included beautiful carvings that were meant to create a sense of a garden oasis…after all, God began this whole relationship with us in a garden. Craftsmen and Artisans put their creativity to work with pine, cedar, and olive wood, with stones and gold and bronze.
At the front of the temple stood two enormous bronze pillars, each about 27 feet high, with capitals of cast bronze set on top of each pillar. Solomon gave the pillars names: Jakin (“he establishes”) and Boaz (“in him is strength”). The capitals atop the pillars were shaped like lilies, adding another seven and a half feet to the pillars’ height. On top of the capitals were 400 carved pomegranates neatly arranged in two rows (1 Kings 7:15-22).
It took seven years for Solomon’s craftsmen to build the temple (1 Kings 6:38). Bronze workers spent thousands of hours making the beautiful pomegranates displayed on top of the pillars. Yet, those 400 pomegranates sat nearly 35 feet in the air where they were barely visible from the ground. Why go to so much trouble to create something most people would never see? Day after day, year after year, the craftsmen went to work, realizing that most visitors to the temple would catch no more than a glimpse of their creations neatly arranged on top of the pillars several stories above the ground.
What is it that you do day after day, year after year. What are you realizing that you do that most people are never going to acknowledge? Maybe it’s not a labor of your hand, but your heart. What attitude requires you to rise above the pettiness at least 35 feet, where your own hurt and wounds are barely visible? What has become particularly tiresome to you? What relationship particularly burdensome? What “good deed” have you abandoned because nobody noticed anyway? What “bad habit” have you resumed because no one is paying attention? What are you hiding? What are you hiding from? What are you imagining giving up on? What have you never attempted because it probably won’t make a difference?
We have all felt like giving up at times. And some of us have. We’ve walked away. Or we’ve destroyed. Or we’ve quit. But by the mere fact that you are listening now, you…we…get another chance. We get to try again. We get to put our hands our heart back to work. We can get our heads back in the game. And this time, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit we can have a different attitude, one that mirrors Christ. Listen to some of these verses as you consider a do-over or a recommitment or an attitude adjustment:
Ephesians 6:7 New International Version (NIV)
7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.
1 Corinthians 15:58 New International Version (NIV)
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
2 Timothy 2:15 New International Version (NIV)
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
1 Corinthians 16:14 New International Version (NIV)
14 Do everything in love.
Colossians 3:23-24 New International Version (NIV)
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
The simplicity is this. When we work to please each other, we will bump into a string of disappointments and let downs. You are not always going to be pleased with me. I’m not always going to be pleased with you. But when I work to please God, a few things happen. First, my focus and attention isn’t on what you think of me or I what I think of me, it’s on what God thinks of me and what I think of God. This is a much more stable place to set our hopes, intentions, and expectations. I hope to please God. I intend to direct my best effort toward God. I expect God to receive my love and devotion. I will not be disappointed. When I work to please God, I am rightly focused. Second, when I work to please God, I am now aligned with God’s work. And God’s work is to love people. So instead of trying to please you so you will love me, I’m pleasing God by loving you. And I do so with the love of God filling me and supporting me. When I work to please God, I am in good alignment to see you and see God and see me rightly. Third, when I work to please God, I realize God’s nearness to me. God cares about my work? God is interested in my attitude? God is there to see my effort? YES! And that both encourages me and holds me accountable. If I’m only pleasing you, I can get away with half effort sometimes. But when I work to please God, I find motivation for my effort. When I work to please God, I am focused on the right task, I am aligned to see the right detail, and I am motivated to get the work done. Slotted spoons look out! We are coming for ya!
Several years ago Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song with this theme. One of the lines talks about picking up cheerios for the 15th time today. It arrested my attention. Was there a camera in my house? And it’s words spoke a gentleness and encouragement to my heart: He created you to do everything you do to bring a smile to his face and tell the story of grace with every little thing you do.
Yes, those 400 pomegranates sat nearly 35 feet in the air where they were barely visible from the ground. Only God could see the fullness of the artists’ work—and that was enough. Only God could fully appreciate their effort, but in the final analysis his approval was all that mattered anyway.
And so it is in the body of Christ. The church is filled with gifted servants who are motivated to honor the One who created their creativity. Like Solomon’s craftsmen, some of these individuals are skilled with stone and wood. Others write newspaper articles, blogs, or poetry, or design attractive Web sites. Some are musicians and composers who take literally the psalmist’s encouragement to “sing a new song to the Lord.” Others honor God through photography, cooking, painting, and crafts. Some demonstrate creativity in the way they teach a Bible class, find ways to save money in the church budget, or plan exciting events for the youth group to enjoy.
They don’t do these things for personal glory, although they enjoy using their gifts. They want to honor God even if he’s the only one who notices. They’re like Solomon’s craftsmen, carving pomegranates for the glory of God alone.
And when we choose to honor God with the details of our lives, suddenly we discover God in the midst of the details of our lives. The things we’ve been searching for suddenly find their purpose and fulfillment and meaning in God.
I am more and more convinced that God is not hiding from us as much as we are hiding from God. We seek not because God is lost to us, but because we have lost our way! But God has provided a path of breadcrumbs so we can find our way home!